Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Bastard Reaction: Circle of Enemies by Harry Connolly
The Twenty Palaces series by Harry Connolly has been a favorite of mine for the past two years. It was with great anticipation that I was waiting for the third installment, Circle of Enemies. Then Borders went under, my pre-order got cancelled, and then it took me a while to find a copy for me. Finally managed to read the book a few weeks ago, and needless to say it didn't disappoint.
Ray Lilly is back, struggling with the events and horrors he has experienced and took part of in the previous two novels. Horrors that almost no one would be able to cope with, and even with his current instability it's to his credit and strength that he hasn't completely lost his mind yet. Early on he gets a visit from his past, an acquaintance and friend, who delivers a message to him which accuses him of killing her others from his previous gang. She disappears right after. Trying to make sense of what he just witnessed, he travels to California to confront his past, figure out what is happening and how exactly is he responsible for their deaths, and find out if they're dead at all.
Circle of Enemies is a novel in which we really get to learn who Ray is and who he used to be. He has to deal with former friends, some of who he no longer recognizes, and doesn't know who he can trust as he faces off against an enemy which might just be the most dangerous of any he might ever encounter. During this he's questioning his role with the Twenty Palaces Society, and questioning the role of the society itself on the world.
What has attracted me to this series, and what I've enjoyed the most, is how horrific and disturbing some of the events and situations are. They often feed off some of our inner most fears, and in Circle of Enemies it's no different, though a bit more toned down from the previous two novels. What Connolly also has done very well is create an atmosphere of helplessness, centered around these fears, and it's an interesting dynamic of how our heroes go about handling the situations.
Moral and ethical dilemmas are often in play, weighted against interests of both a micro and macro scale. It's interesting to see where our heroes draw the line because if children need to get killed to save the world, for example, our heroes may very well just go and kill these children. And it's never pretty. It's choices like this one which has Ray in a foul emotional state in this book, dealing with the aftermath of various horrific choices and actions he's had to take to solve problems by means he's not proud of. This time it's people form his past that are in the line of fire, so the personal stakes are even higher.
Ray Lilly is an interesting narrator, in many ways atypical to what I've usually read in urban fantasy. He's not a charismatic narrator. It reminds me in some ways of Connor Grey from Mark del Franco's series, but without the light humor. For the most part, never getting too high or too low emotionally. In many manners he comes off as indifferent, which is just an illustration of how he has insulated himself to protect his sanity and also a portrayal of how he has a new perspective of the world. He's had to re-prioritize the facets of his life.
Circle of Enemies addresses some concerns and complaints by some readers, which was nice to see. Ray Lilly gets a bit of a power-up which I'm looking forward to see how it works out. Also, we get a much better sense of direction and the picture is getting clear about where the journey is heading and how the world works. In many ways, this is a book about origins.
Harry Connolly writes another winning novel in the Twenty Palaces series, and I'm sure Circle of Enemies won't disappoint fans of said series. Sadly, as I was reading this book I got news that Del Rey had cancelled the series, which you can read about in Connolly's blog. This was a series that had pretty much exactly what I want to read in an urban fantasy, so I've taken the news a bit hard. Regardless, a series that I would recommend despite this because I think the way Circle of Enemies ended, though a bit open ended, it gives a clear and satisfying picture of where our characters are heading and on the series as a whole. Looking forward to future projects by Harry Connolly, and crossing my fingers on an eventual reunion with Ray Lilly and company.
You can buy Circle of Enemies from The Book Depository.
Make sure to visit Harry Connolly on his website and his blog.